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Covid-19 emergency powers to be investigated by Lords Constitution Committee

Tuesday 29 September 2020

The House of Lords Constitution Committee today invites contributions on the use and scrutiny of emergency powers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Government has used a wide range of emergency powers in order to respond to the pandemic, including measures under the Public Health (Control of Diseases) Act 1984 and those introduced in the Coronavirus Act 2020. The Committee will explore the use of these powers, the opportunities for Parliament to scrutinise them, and the communication of Covid-19 restrictions to authorities, businesses and the public. It will also examine consider the powers available to local authorities and the differing approaches among the devolved nations.

Questions the Committee is seeking views on include:

  • Does the Coronavirus Act 2020 strike the right balance between powers for the Executive and parliamentary oversight and approval
  • What new criminal offences have been introduced as part of the Government's response to the pandemic? Is criminalisation a proportionate, justified and appropriate response?
  • To what extent have the legal requirements imposed on people during lockdown been clear and accessible to members of the public?
  • What have been the consequences of legal divergence between the constituent parts of the United Kingdom in responding to the pandemic?
  • What lessons can be learned from the (1) Government’s preparation, and (2) Parliament’s constrained scrutiny of the fast-tracked Coronavirus Bill?
  • What should be done differently the next time there's a need for substantial emergency legislation?

Written submissions can be made on the Committee’s website. Oral evidence sessions to discuss these issues will be arranged during the autumn.

This call for evidence is part of the Constitution Committee’s inquiry on the constitutional implications of Covid-19. The Committee has taken evidence on the impact of Covid-19 on the courts and on Parliament and is in the process of reviewing that evidence.

Baroness Taylor, Chair of the Constitution Committee, said:

“We encourage a wide range of individuals, sectors and groups to share their views on the use and scrutiny of emergency powers during the Covid-19 pandemic. Hearing a range of different perspectives will be of great assistance to the Committee and will ensure that we are well informed when we come to report on this issue.”

The deadline for the submission of written evidence is Wednesday 18 November 2020.

Written evidence on the courts and Parliament strands of the inquiry is available online.

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